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Louis Neri

Falls Church, VA
  • Louis Neri in the photo 1

My leg was severely damaged in a motorcycle accident. As time went on, my right knee became increasingly unstable - it bent sideways causing unbelievable pain. I was able to walk, however, I just did not want to stand or walk because of the pain.

Over the next few years the pain continued to get worse and it became harder to get around. I became dependent on a regimen of opioid painkillers. I was taking a very high dosage daily. I also needed a cane even to go just a couple of feet. Life was miserable.

I visited many surgeons over that time. At first I wanted a knee replacement, however, I was warned time and again that a knee replacement was not right for my situation for a couple of reasons specific to my conditions. My bones and soft tissue were greatly damaged and probably would not support the ability of an artificial knee to have any significant improvement in range of motion. Also - and more importantly - prior infections left open the possibility that any surgical attempts may lead to the need to remove the artificial knee in the future and amputation of my lower leg.

As time went on, the surgeons I visited recommended an alternative known as knee fusion. That's where your knee is immobilized completely. That is, it can never bend again. That was the bad news but it was also the good news because it would no longer bend sideways and it would not hurt anymore. After seeing more than a dozen surgeons in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and New York, I began to realize that a knee fusion was what I probably needed. Simple, right? Not so fast. When I finally agreed that to proceed with the knee fusion recommendation, many of these doctors then seemed hesitant. I came to realize that this procedure was not performed nearly as much as knee replacement surgery is. Moreover it is still surgery which is always risky. Foreign objects may still be used so infection is still a possibility. Hence there were not many surgeons who were willing to take on my case and frankly the few who were did not instill a great amount of confidence in me. The outlook was grim because this was not just an academic exercise. My life was still miserable. Every step I took or moment I was standing was unbelievably painful.

It was my mom who finally recommended that I go to HSS in New York. That is how I came to meet Dr. Rozbruch and his team. Initially I visited with Dr. Figgie, an excellent knee surgeon in his own right. Dr. Figgie gave me a thorough examination and spent considerable time explaining to me why I need a knee fusion. Not only for the immediate improvements I sought but also because of the long term complications that may arise such as hip or back problems. He also asserted that I should see Dr. Rozbruch for specific recommendations.

Unlike the many other surgeons I had already seen, Dr. Rozbruch and his team confidently laid out a plan of action. He even had a plan A & B for how to specifically complete the fusion in light of my unique conditions and the need to guard against possible infection. By now it was three and a half years since my initial accident and this was truly the first glimmer of hope that I could even approach being normal again.

The surgery went smoothly. When I awoke I had this contraption known as an external fixator on my leg from top to bottom. I was discharged from HSS after a few days but the fixator needed to remain in place for approximately five months, followed by a cast for another month, followed by crutches for yet another month or so. All this while being laid up and homebound.

The benefits were immediate. I literally had no more leg pain -- zero! My leg was able to support weight within days -- also without pain. As I said, total recovery time was approximately six months but well worth it. This was unbelievable. Although I did keep using a cane for a few weeks afterward, that was only because walking was new to me and I needed to improve my ability to balance. I received formal physical therapy for the next couple of months to help me as well.

It is now almost a full year since Dr. Rozbruch performed his magic on my leg. I have been walking on my own without the aid of a cane for about six months. I am still improving every day though. I have a bit of a limp and I will probably never run again but none of that matters because after five years of misery and suffering I am finally putting my life back together. My head is clear because I am no longer taking painkillers or any medication whatsoever. I can walk almost normally for distances I never dreamed of before. Before Dr. Rozbruch's surgery I could not walk to the corner without regretting it. Now I am able to go a mile or two.

I should also mention what a great hospital HSS is. I stayed there twice, once for almost a week and again for a couple of days. I have endured many other hospital stays because of my condition. I can safely say that in my experience no other hospital treats patients as well as HSS. Every staff member was professional, competent, helpful, and most importantly enthusiastic to make your stay there as comfortable as possible. This included nurses and doctors of course, but also administrative, food delivery, and even janitorial staff. This was so remarkably noticeable that patient care and comfort is obviously a systemic goal of the HSS organization.

If asked to rate my experience between 1 & 5, I would give HSS a 6 and Dr. Rozbruch and his team a 7. You cannot do better anywhere else. I am so glad I found them.